After winning most of the seats in the agrarian districts of Saurashtra and north, central and south Gujarat in the Assembly elections, the BJP government increased the budget for the agriculture and fisheries sector to Rs 21,605 crore in the state budget for 2023-2024, presented in Friday.
The allocation is almost three times higher compared to Rs 7,737 crore announced for the sector in the last budget. Taken together with allocations to related departments such as water resources and power, the total rises to Rs 42,594 crore, the official said, adding that this is about 14 per cent of the state’s budget of Rs 3.01 lakh crore for the next fiscal.
“The well-being of farmers in the country is our priority. Under the leadership of the popular and honorable Chief Minister of Gujarat, Bhupendra Patel, our government is working for the happiness of fishermen and pastoralists. The government has taken a number of initiatives to increase capital investment in agriculture, animal husbandry and fisheries and increase availability of credit,” Finance Minister Kanu Desai said while presenting the budget.
The minister proposed to allocate Rs 9,705 crore to the water resources department, Rs 8,738 crore to the power and petrochemicals sector, Rs 30 crore to the food, civil supplies and consumer affairs sector for procurement of millet from farmers and distribution of the coarse grain through public distribution system.
Pointing out that the central government has transferred around Rs 12 lakh crore directly into the bank accounts of 61 lakh farmers in the last four years under the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Saman Nidhi, Desai allocated Rs 615 crore to provide subsidy to farmers for purchase of tractors and other farm equipment and thereby promote mechanization of agricultural operations.
The minister also gave a subsidy of Rs 400 crore to farmers for solar fencing and barbed wire fencing around agricultural fields to protect crops from damage by wild animals.
In a bid to encourage farmers to switch to cow farming, the government has allocated Rs 203 crore to help farmers retain their cows and Rs 500 crore to the Mukhyamantri Guamata Poshan Yojana (MGPY) to ensure maintenance of gaushalas and pounds for taking cattle. care of wild and unproductive cattle.
Farming leaders said the budget had many welcome initiatives but nothing substantial to keep farming an attractive occupation.
“Around 50 per cent of the population of Gujarat earns its living through agriculture and therefore the allocation of Rs 21,000 crore for this sector out of the Rs 3 lakh crore budget is proportionately very low. While Rs 500 crore for MGPY and Rs 203 crore for cow breeding are welcome steps, the budget is silent on increased input costs in the form of increased prices of seeds, fertilizers and pesticides,” Dilip Sahiya, former president of Rajkot district. Bharatiya Kisan Sangh said, adding, “On the one hand, the government gives subsidy on farm equipment but charges an average of 12 percent GST on them.”
But Hiren Hirapara, a farmer leader from Amreli, who is pledging support to the BJP, said, “This budget also puts a lot of emphasis on rural development. Along with the central government budget, the state budget gives farmers a lot to cheer about.”
The minister also allocated Rs 1270 crore as interest subsidy to farmers, herdsmen and fishermen for a short-term loan of up to Rs 3 lakh availed by them every year.
He also announced Rs 124 crore for computerization of primary agricultural cooperatives and Rs 38 crore for construction of warehouses in agricultural produce market committees.
The allocation for research in agriculture, animal husbandry and dairying and fisheries has been increased to Rs 1,153 crore.
In a sign of full implementation of Kisan Soriodaya Yojana, the scheme to supply electricity to farmers during the day, the FM proposed to allocate Rs 1570 crore for the scheme for the next fiscal.
He also proposed to allocate Rs 1,010 crore for providing farm power connections to farmers in tribal, coastal and other regions of the state and Rs 152 crore as subsidy for farmers to purchase solar pumps under Prime Minister KUSUM Yojana.